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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Students, Family and Mentors Celebrate Cornell's 2011 White Coat Ceremony

Posted by Donald Smith, Cornell University
December 3, 2011

When I asked Danielle Hein why so many members of her family had come to Ithaca this weekend to celebrate Cornell's White Coat Ceremony for third-year veterinary students, she said, "I think my family is just really proud and they are good at supporting and celebrating each other's accomplishments. I am certain that they deserve some of the credit for helping me get this far so the "white coat" is essentially for them."

Danielle Hein (center) and family at the 2011 White Coat Ceremony
Danielle's mentor, Dr. John Andresen (Cornell 1966)
and Mrs. Maribeth Andresen are to the right of Danielle.

The White Coat tradition that started eight years ago at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine marks the beginning of the clinical portion of the veterinary curriculum. During the last one and one-half years of education, the students will be caring for clinical cases in the hospital wards and on farms and other ambulatory settings.

"I'm sure that my classmates would agree that we are extremely excited to finally be entering the clinical portion of our education", Danielle said. "I feel so enthusiastic about it, to finally see patients, to feel like I'm really helping animals and their owners, and applying the things I've spent years learning. It's the culmination of so much hard work. I just can't imagine anything more satisfying."

During the event, hosted by Dean Michael Kotlikoff, each of the students had a mentor officially coat them. Danielle chose Cornell alumnus, Dr. John Andresen, the veterinarian who piqued her interest many years ago and who has remained a mentor throughout her time at Cornell.

Kevin Render and his mother, Sheila Perry,
at Cornell's White Coat Ceremony
Kevin Render had eight family members drive from Buffalo to celebrate with him. He was especially grateful to his mother for her direction early in life. "My mother was a teacher even though she doesn't have a teaching degree. She taught me invaluable lessons even when she wasn't trying. Without a doubt, those lessons are why I have made it this far when so many in my neighborhood did not. Through her struggles, I learned willpower. Through her character, I learned individuality."

According to Kevin, "The start of clinics will be bittersweet. Sweet, because I'll have patients and put into practice all the learning I've had the past two years. Bitter, because clinics are a reminder that vet school is more than half over. Furthermore, because we are dispersed in the hospital during clinical rotations, I'll never be around all of my classmates in one place ever again."

Michael Robinson's father, David
flew from London, England to attend the ceremony.
Parents and family members came from all over the United States, and even from Europe. David Robinson, father of Michael, flew from London to join his son. The parents of Nate LaHue, both veterinarians, came from California.
Kathleen Molero's parents and also her mentor, Dr. Carlos Machado, arrived from south Florida. Kate Allen's parents flew in from Chicago. In some cases, parents or other family members who are also veterinarians, coated their children or siblings.

The capstone of the afternoon was the address delivered by Dr. Robert R. Marshak, dean emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania. A Cornell graduate (1945) and perhaps the most influential dean of the second half of the 20th century, Dr. Marshak portrayed the veterinary profession using a brilliant tapestry that evoked the rigors of science and the art of medicine and communication.

Dr. Robert R. Marshak, (Cornell 1945) 
professor and dean emeritus,
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Marshak spoke glowingly of Cornell's rich tradition in excellence from our founding in 1868 by the Scottish veterinarian, James Law, to the present world-class faculty and student body. "You are a special group", he urged the students to remember.
And so they are and so they shall be, as they stood with other veterinarians in the great hall to recite the veterinarian's oath led by Dr. Jonathan May, president of the college's Alumni Association, which co-sponsored the afternoon's celebration.
Photos by the author.
Dr. Smith welcomes comments at